Odessa’s Catacombs – a must-see during an Odessa visit

The 1500-miles labyrinth of underground tunnels. The largest in Europe. Home to smugglers, criminals and WW 2 partisans.

Odessa literally stands on a gigantic labyrinth of underground tunnels. How did the tunnels appear? In the nineteenth century, a newly founded booming town needed stone for construction. The tunnels are the mines created to get limestone to build the houses.


Discovered within Odessa’s historic quarter, the oldest known mines go underground for 10-15 meters and date back to 1811-1814 (Odessa was founded in 1794).

Story goes that this square stands on the three levels of tunnels
Katerininskaya sqr Odessa

A big labyrinth of the tunnels, which consists of thirty interconnected mines was discovered in the Moldavanka neighborhood. Created around 1850-1880, the tunnels are located 20-25 meters under the ground.

One of the streets in Moldavanka, which stands on the catacombs

Street of Moldavanka

Towering over a steep cliff is one of Odessa’s most magnificent mansions, the Vorontsov palace.

The Vorontsov palace in 1830s

Vorontsov palace old pic

The palace boasts many exciting legends, one of which is about the catacombs. Indeed, one can see a well in the palace’s cellar, which is actually an entrance to the underground tunnel. Going for four meters under the ground, the tunnel is 140 meters long. It’s unknown who and why made the tunnel: the Turkish head of the fort who had had his house in the spot where the palace was built later or the tunnels were made by the mansion’s owners, the Vorontsov family. Nevertheless, the tunnel’s existence is a proven fact.

Located fifteen kilometers outside the city center, the village of Nerybaiskoe boasts an intricate system of the underground tunnels, which are older than Odessa. Created by the Cossacks back in 1770s, the mines of Nerybaiskoe are multi-level and provide for a very interesting tour into the area’s past: the times of the miners, the 1917 revolution and World War 2.

odessa catacombs

The mines of Nerybaiskoe are officially open for public visits, although you have to be accompanied by a guide. During the times of WW2 one of the largest and well known partisan groups stayed in the mines there, so after the war historians together with surviving partisans recreated how people lived in the tunnels during Odessa’s occupation. On a visit to the mines of Nerybaiskoe you’ll kill two birds with one stone: see the “wild” tunnels (authentic mines) and a very interesting partisan museum.

odessa catacombs

Odessa’s catacombs are not to be missed during your visit to the area. As one of our tour guests said, they are “a real treasure”. Depending on how adventurous you are you may look for a “wild catacombs’ tour” or go on a privately guided tour to the tunnels of Nerybaiskoe. If you feel a bit uncomfortable underground, then you’d better go to Nerybaiskoe: the tunnels are lit, broad and high enough and the ceiling is reinforced. So, it feels absolutely safe to be there. Yet, you can glimpse into the “wild mines”.

To arrange for a private tour of the Nerybaiskoe tunnels or to request more information about the tour, please email at info@odessawalks.com

Safe Travels!


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